Having been together for decades, George (Alfred Molina) and George (John Lithgow) finally get married. Not long afterwards, George is unceremoniously fired from his teaching job at a Christian school, and the newlyweds find themselves having to sell their home and couch surf with friends and family. Of course, this cannot be a permanent solution, but it takes a toll on all involved.
Love is Strange is one of those quiet little affecting movies, one that is not all song and dance, but about the characters and their world. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are simply wonderful in their roles as the newly wed septuagenarians; watching them, it is easy to believe that these men know one another intimately, have seen one another at their best and at their worst, and love each other unconditionally. The chemistry is gentle, yet believable, and their performances are nuanced, warm and ultimately, heartbreaking in their sincerity.
The rest of the cast is made up of Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Charlie Tahan and Darren E. Burrows. Each is skilfully directed by Ira Sachs, and makes their performance believable and relatable. Speaking of Sachs’ direction, there is barely a moment that feels unauthentic, so well does he weave the story together. Much of the action and pivotal moments take place off screen, which allows the characters to digest, deal with and accept events alongside the audience. There are times, however, when it would have been less frustrating for the audience to have questions answered on screen, but there is a feel of authenticity created by having these moments happen outside the world of the film; life changing moments are often experienced alone, and it is in talking about them, telling people about them or simply carrying on that character is formed.
The story, written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, is painfully simple, but it is in this simplicity that the genius of the film lies; this is not a tale about marriages, friendships or relationships ending, it is simply an examination of the everyday frustrations that happen, and the way that the characters in the film deal with them. Christos Voudouris’ cinematography makes New York beautiful and light, a telling contrast against the emotional struggles at the heart of the film.
In all, Love is Strange is a warm and heartbreaking look at what happens to people when things don’t go as planned. Molina and Lithgow are outstanding as the central couple, and the supporting cast carry the tone and feel of the film well. That said, however, leaving important events to goo unseen is both a weakness, and one of the film’s greatest strengths.